There was the surprise thumping of San Jose on the night half the city was buried by a blizzard. There was the absolute pummeling they gave cross-border rival Toronto. There was the comeback win over Tampa Bay on national television. Then there was the home-and-away sweep of then league-leading Montreal, complete with one of the greatest goals in Sabres history courtesy of Tyler Ennis—a highlight-reel move that landed on the front page of Yahoo.com, as well as the #1 spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10.
You could say that this impressive run by the Sabres has been all the more enjoyable because of the team’s previous struggles, but that wouldn’t be completely accurate.
What’s really made it worthwhile for fans is that they’ve endured the low points while still remembering how much they love the team, and respect the sport that it plays.
That’s not exactly the easiest thing to maintain across such a passionate fan base when even management has been transparent about the team’s vulnerability and focus on rebuilding before playoff contention. Yet, for the most part, fans have taken that grim truth right on the chin and rolled with the punches.
Nobody must appreciate that more than the boys we watch out on the ice, as evidenced by how regularly they’ve spoken with regret about how they haven’t been able to provide the fans with more success.
If a hockey team has to go through a period of struggle, there still needs to be mutual respect between the players and the fans.
The Buffalo Sabres can take pride in that, but some teams can’t. You need look no further than at that aforementioned cross-border rival that the Sabres defeated 6-2 less than two weeks ago.
The rift that occurred between the Maple Leafs players and their fans was one of the ugliest things seen in the NHL in a long time; jerseys were hurled onto the ice at home games (something the Edmonton Oilers can also lament), players took aim at the fans in interviews, players refused to do the traditional stick-salute to the crowd at the end of a home win.
Easily the most unsettling of all, though, was when some ‘fans’ took to social media to harass the wife of goaltender James Reimer following one of his less successful outings.
Given the repeated struggles that the Sabres have gone through in the last few years, that kind of madness could just as well have happened in Buffalo, and it’s hard not to shudder at the thought. Just imagine how sad it would be to see Sabres jerseys tossed onto the ice in disgust after a poor performance inside First Niagara Center, or to see fans also take to the internet to attack a player’s friend or family member.
There have been rumblings in the past. Regular booing and jeering at home games really irked former Sabres captain Steve Ott, who eventually chastised the fans for their behavior. There was also an unnerving incident in 2012 where a handful of ‘fans’ targeted Terry Pegula’s daughters on Twitter while the Sabres endured a rough season.
Thankfully, those isolated incidents never escalated, and the team’s wholesome relationship with the Western New York region has been stable in the last couple of years, even when the team trudged through its worst season in franchise history last year.
Near-silent crowds at home games and “embrace the tank” memes will always be healthier ways to express frustration with a team rather than throwing jerseys onto the ice or making personal attacks on the players (and their loved ones).
That kind of vitriol would shatter the bond that Sabres players have with their loyal fans. Even though the players are placed on a pedestal in this city as some of the most important celebrities, they maintain a sense of humility that’s unheard of from professional athletes. They’re the same guys who spend just as much time partnering with the local SPCA for adoption awareness or visiting Children’s Hospital as they do playing hockey. They stroll into Best Buy to purchase televisions and appliances just like any other mall shopper.
We here at Sabres Hockey Central are unbelievably proud to say that we don’t have to fear that our followers will ever sully our website or social media accounts with that kind of filth; we have perhaps the classiest followers among the entire Sabres fan base. On the worst of worst days, our community has taken on a sort of Mystery Science Theater 3000 approach to sarcastically criticizing the team’s struggles, with SHC fans trying to get a laugh out of a lopsided loss, not denouncing support of the franchise altogether.
With that said, we still feel the need to make a call to our near-23,000 member community, and to all others who will join us in the near future—let’s never forget why we root for the Buffalo Sabres in the first place.
This 6-1-0 stretch by the team has been nice, but we can’t expect it to last forever. The team is still in the middle of a rebuild, and more losses are likely on the way. For all that we know, there also might be a bunch of those dreadful droughts on the horizon.
Let’s not become so mindlessly upset with those tough times that we forget how much joy the team brings us when they do find success out on the ice, and just as well, how much of an effort the players give to bettering our city in their spare time.
If you ever see heinous behavior on our website or on one of our social media accounts, please inform one of our administrators at once so we can ensure that those persons never have the opportunity to be a part of our community again. Let’s continue to be not just the classiest Sabres community out there, but also the classiest sports community out there. Because in doing so, we’re showing everything that’s great about the Sabres franchise and the city that it calls home
Until then, Let’s Go Buffalo.